Meet Reading Kingdom | Interview

Reading Kingdom is a resource that we'd like to share with the KinderTown family. You can read our interview in this blog post.

While participating in the SXSW EDU competition in March, KinderTown had the opportunity to share the stage with some really innovative people in the education world. One of the companies, Reading Kingdom, stood out as a resource we needed to share with the KinderTown family. Besides having owls in common, we share a desire to give children the best educational resources available.



Reading Kingdom is a computer-based program that provides tailored reading instruction for children between the ages of 4 to 10. What piqued my interest was that Reading Kingdom takes a unique perspective on how to teach children that provides another strategy for learning to read than the phonics and whole language approaches. A successful reading program that gives kids one more opportunity to become a stronger reader? Tell me more! And they did – here is the interview that we did with Reading Kingdom.


KinderTown: What is Reading Kingdom? Is this a tool for use at home or in the classroom?
Reading Kingdom: Reading Kingdom is an online program that teaches children 4-10 how to read and write to a 3rd grade level. It can be used at home, at school or both. The program follows a student’s progress no matter where the program is used, so a child can practice the program anywhere there is a computer. It can be used as a standalone reading curriculum, or it can work as an intervention or supplementary program with any other program a child is using.


KinderTown: What inspired Dr. Blank to create Reading Kingdom?
Reading Kingdom: Dr. Marion Blank is the Director of the Light on Learning Program at Columbia University. Literacy is her life-long passion, and she has been developing programs that teach children to read for over 40 years, including some of the very first reading software programs. When she saw the power of the Internet and its ability to make a very fun, interactive, game-like program available to children everywhere, she knew she had to do it.


KinderTown: What makes Reading Kingdom unique from other reading programs?
Reading Kingdom: Reading Kingdom is a patented program that uses unique methods not found in any other reading program. The core difference is that Reading Kingdom is the only program that teaches all six skills required for reading success.


KinderTown: How is the program structured?
Reading Kingdom: Reading Kingdom program is divided into seven levels – two that cover introductory skills and five that cover reading and writing. The five reading and writing levels have six books at each level for a total of thirty books. By the time a child is finished with the program she or he should be reading at a 3rd grade level and should also have a set of powerful skills that make future learning smooth and successful. The program is adaptive, so it customizes itself to each child. If a child begins the program without any reading experience, chances are he or she will start at the very beginning and learn key introductory skills. A child who already has some reading abilities will likely start later in the program. This way children do not become bored with material that is too easy or frustrated by material that is too difficult.


KinderTown: What types of children use Reading Kingdom? Is it primarily for advanced learners or children who need a little extra help?
Reading Kingdom: Reading Kingdom works with children at all levels. Because the program customizes itself to each child, the program will adapt to teach at a faster or slower pace and provide more or less review based on each child’s specific needs. Children who may be having some trouble learning to read using another curriculum will likely succeed using Reading Kingdom, and children who learn to read easily will learn even faster using Reading Kingdom.


KinderTown: What results have you seen from children who complete the program?
Reading Kingdom: Children who complete the Reading Kingdom program have very strong reading and writing skills. And because children learn to read easily we see that kids who use the program actually love to read. The program also creates a very solid foundation that helps children as they move on to higher levels of reading. It is generally accepted that through 3rd grade children are “learning to read.” But starting in 4th grade children begin “reading to learn.” That’s why it is essential that children build a strong foundation so that when they reach 4th grade they have the reading and writing skills they need to excel in school.


KinderTown: How can Reading Kingdom be use as a supplement to what a child is currently learning in the classroom?
Reading Kingdom: No matter which program a child is using, Reading Kingdom can help that child to learn to read and write with greater mastery and fluency. Because Reading Kingdom teaches all six skills required for reading and writing it can fill in any holes that are left by other programs.


KinderTown: How does Reading Kingdom connect reading to other subject areas and general academic learning?
Reading Kingdom: Each of the five reading and writing levels in Reading Kingdom focuses on developing new literacy skills in children that relate to the types of books and reading material children will need to become familiar with as they advance academically. The program starts with simple character books and over the course of the five levels slowly introduces concepts critical to future academic studies including past tense, fantasy, science and other non-fiction subjects and so on. The program also places a strong emphasis on comprehension activities that teach children how to get the “main idea” which is essential for all learning.


KinderTown: Are there additional off-line materials for Reading Kingdom?
Reading Kingdom: There are a variety of books, workbooks and additional offline programs that are available to parents and teachers on our website.


KinderTown: What’s next for Reading Kingdom?
Reading Kingdom: We are developing the next levels in the Reading Kingdom program for teaching advanced reading and writing.


Download the most popular guide to finding and using educational apps for kids!

4 Fun Earth Day Activities for Kids

Earth Day has always been one of my most anticipated classroom holidays.

Earth Day has always been one of my most anticipated classroom holidays. My favorite children’s book is The Lorax by Dr. Seuss, and I look forward to sharing it with my students all year – which is clear as they often ask me why we don’t read all of our books like that all the time.


The week is also filled with nature walks, art projects and investigating ways we can recycle better in our classroom. There are so many activities that I never had a chance to do in the classroom due to time or cost. These are a few of my favorite Earth Day ideas plus ones that parents have shared with me as favorites in their home.


Activity for Recycling: Crayons Melting In the Sun


1. Take all those half used crayons that are sitting in the bottom of your child’s art box and peel of all the paper. Great job for your child to do, it builds fine motor strength.


2. Chop up the crayons and add the them to a muffin tin, silicone does work best. Note: line your muffin tin with foil cups if you don’t want to ruin your muffin tin. I recommend mixing up your crayon colors for a kaleidoscope effect.


3. If it is a warm day, put the muffin tin outside in a sunny spot and wait for the crayons to melt.


4. For faster results: Set your oven to 250 degrees and bake till melted (you might need to give the wax a stir).


5. Let cool completely and pop your new crayons right on out!


If you are feeling really ambitious use this link to learn how to make recycled paper to color on with your recycled crayons!


Activity for Snacking: Dirt Snack


Who doesn’t love a good ol’ dirt in a cup with a worm on top! One of the easiest treats to make with your kids.


Here is my quick and easy recipe (remember I make this treat with 22 five year olds!): Crush 2 graham crackers and stir into a chocolate pudding cup. Stick in a gummy worm. Enjoy!


Now if you want to do some real cooking check out this recipe from Kraft.


Activity for a Long Term Project: Plant a Pizza Garden



I mentioned this activity last week but love the idea so much that I had to share it again. The idea is to start planting with kids by motivating them with a favorite food, pizza.


1. Brainstorm with your child what plants are part of their pizza. Take the time to discuss what animals our toppings come from. Make a list and sort the plants from the animals.


2. With your list of plants head over to your local Home Depot, Lowes or corner hardware store to look for plants and seeds. Herbs are going to be the easiest to grow but tomatoes and peppers are always fun. If you have the space in your backyard or window sill pick up a few “pizza” plants to grow.


3. In a prepared garden space plant your new plants. Make a little list for the fridge of what you will need to do to take care of the plants, with watering and weeding being the two most important things.


4. Enjoy caring for and tending to the garden together as a family.
Read more details here


A great book to go along with this project is Growing Vegetable Soup by Lois Ehlert.


Activity for Homeschool Parents and Teachers:


Amazing STEM lesson plan on “too much trash” from Little Kinder Warriors

Click here to read more 


Download the most popular guide to finding and using educational apps for kids!

Email with Your Child | Guest Post

Email with Your Child | Guest Post

Email is not just for adults anymore! I should know because I spent this fall asking 4-year-old children to send emails to their parents. And do you know what? Not only were they able to send emails, but most children kept coming back to write more.


Emailing is basically a digital form of writing notes. Note-writing is encouraged by early childhood educators to promote writing with a purpose. Beyond simply practicing letter formation, creating messages for others is an authentic way for children to experience the power of writing. Offering your child the chance to send emails is a way to combine authentic message making with the highly engaging lure of technology. As you interact with your child during this process, you can focus on many literacy skills including letter formation, sounds, spelling and message making.


Emily 1

After sending and receiving almost 300 emails with preschoolers, I have learned a few things about emailing with young children so that it’s an engaging and beneficial experience for everyone.


10 Suggestions for Emailing With Your Child


Before You Start


• Talk with your child about the difference between sending an email and sending a letter. What tools do you use for each? How do you send them? Ask him to write a letter and mail it to your home. Then send an email to yourself. Ask your child, “Which do you think we will receive first? Why?”

• Create a list of “safe” people that your child can email. This may include relatives and playmates’ parents. You can even set up email addresses to come up as the name that your child calls them (i.e. Uncle David or Scott’s Mom). Your child should always know the person to whom he is sending an email.


What You Need


• Invest in a quality drawing app that will allow your child to create messages using both pictures and writing, and then email it using a mail program. (If you have multiple email accounts, make sure that the default account is the one you would like your child to use.) 

Drawing Pad is one of my favorites. It has pencils, paints, stamps, and you can import existing photos. It has a mail button that is easily accessible so that your child can email his compositions with your guidance. Once emails are received, your child can type responses in a mail program or compose more in the drawing program.


Teaching Moments


• After your child has created a message in a drawing program, ask him to read you the message. Sometimes scribbles have meaning that we might not realize. Show your child that you believe he can write.

• Practice name writing. Ask your child to print his name, whether it is drawn with a finger or printed using a keyboard.

• If your child says they can’t write, ask him to draw a message and then ask him to tell you about it. Then, write/type a message in conventional writing. As you type, talk about the letters and sounds in the words. For example, you might say, “You want it to say “I like ice cream.” Okay, for I, I will write the letter “I”. See, this is an I. L-l-l-l-ike. That starts with an “L”. Here is the L.”


To Make Everything Go Smoother


• Encourage relatives to respond in specific ways so that children have a reason to respond. For example, Uncle David may write “I love ice cream, too! My favorite is strawberry. What is your favorite flavor?” Children have a hard time writing back when the reply consists of messages such as “Great job, honey.” Or “I love you, and miss you so much!”

• If your child eagerly types or prints long strings of letters, offer a translation below so that people who receive the message can respond appropriately. For example, after the text “cjdieskjfiejaldnvkiefd”, you could type “Ryan says, “I love you, Uncle David. I like ice cream.” This can help well-meaning adults who can’t interpret our little one’s scribbles.

• When an email response is received, encourage your child to look for letters or words that they recognize before you read the message aloud. Printing out copies of email exchanges can also give children exposure to words and letters on an ongoing basis.


For Inspiration


For reluctant message makers or those ready for something different, encourage them to select a photo to write about. You can do this in the Drawing Pad app by importing photos from your photo library. Stop during the day to snap a picture, or make a suggestion about a topic for an email your child could compose later. For example, “Maybe I could take a picture of you eating your ice cream to email to Uncle David.”


Remember that the purpose of emailing is to work with your child to use literacy skills and to connect with the special people in your child’s life. Most importantly, have fun writing with your child as you work together to send messages.


This guest post was written by Emily Bigelow.


Download the most popular guide to finding and using educational apps for kids!

Bag Game | App Review & Activities

Bag Game is an excellent addition to the folder on your device labeled: car trips.

Bag Game

Bag Game is an excellent addition to the folder on your device labeled: car trips.


You should have at least two players. One player to choose from the abundance of images arranged by category and hide it in the app’s brown paper bag. The second player to ask questions in hopes of figuring out what is in the bag.


Read KinderTown's review of Bag Game.

Sound familiar? It’s 20 questions for your iPhone (or iPad – the app is universal).


There’s a lot of educational value in this app. Did you know:


• Children build reasoning skills as they test conclusions through asking questions.
• Parents foster vocabulary development by going through the pictures in the app and asking questions like: “Would you use that in a kitchen?” or “Where can we find that in our house?”
• >Children make sophisticated connections about categorizing, a very important skill, when they are able to notice and talk about the similarities in organized sets of objects.
• It is a challenge for young children to answer these kinds of questions with a simple yes or no. They have to take time to think to themselves and make sense of the question being asked.


Enjoying watching your kids get inspired with Bag Game. We hope you take time to play along, ask your kids questions and join in on the fun!


Activity 1: Go Fish! for 10


What You’ll Need:

• Deck of Cards.
• At least two people.


I grew up playing cards and still bring a deck of cards with me on vacations or trips for those quiet, relaxing moments with friends. With memories of playing Go Fish! and war in the backseat of the car with my sister, I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to share a fun twist on the classic Go Fish! that your kids are sure to love.


To set up the game:


Prepare your deck of cards by removing all the face cards and 10s. Deal five cards to each player. Pile the rest face down. Look through your cards and If you have two cards that add up to 10, put them down. Pick up as many cards as you need to have 5 cards in your hand.


How to play:


Everyone in this game needs to take turns. On your turn:


• Ask a player for a card that goes with a card in your hand to add up to 10.
• If you get what you ask for, put down the pair, and draw a card.
• If the card you draw makes a new pair of 10, put it down.
• As you use up your cards, draw more cards.
• Once you have no pairs that equal 10 in your hand the next person gets a turn.


Play until the deck is used up. The player with the most pairs wins.


Make it easier:

• For younger children you can use cards 1–5 and make pairs that total 5.
• Make a cheat sheet for what numbers make 10 (1+9, 2+8, 3+7…)


Activity 2: 10 Supplies to Keep for Outdoor Playtime

Every spring I challenge myself to find more activities and lessons that my class can do outside. My students always love a chance to be in the sun, even if it is to write a story or to lay in the grass and listen to a good book. “Extra recess” seems excessive to principals (and some parents) but it’s the best reward ever to kids, and any lessons that use movement and outside play are precious.


I am sure that you also look for ways to encourage meaningful play in your home. That is why instead of a 2nd activity I am sharing with you a list of 10 items that spark creative play. Put these items in a bin and let your child choose from the bin or use freely during outdoor play time:


1. Sidewalk chalk.
2. Bubbles.
3. Dice – especially if you have a big, soft pair.
4. Beach Ball.
5. Yarn (not for sewing!).
6. Foam or rubber balls of various sizes.
7. Water bottle filled with water (good for drinking & squirting).
8. Old camera or kids camera.
9. Bean bags or balloons filled with: sand, corn, seeds, flour (the balloons will break!)
10. Muffin tins or egg cartons (for collections)


Download the most popular guide to finding and using educational apps for kids!

Jungle Fractions | App Review & Activities

Jungle Fractions is an outstanding app that makes learning about fractions so much fun!

Jungle Fractions

Jungle Fractions is an outstanding app that makes learning about fractions so much fun! Learning about fractions is often frustrating for young children. It is a tough concept with a lot of new vocabulary for kids to tackle at a young age. Thankfully, developer Andrew Short created this app.


Read KinderTown's review of Jungle Fractions.

We recommend this app for 5 and 6 year olds, however children up through fifth grade can use it. The latest release added multiplication of fractions which extends the life of this app in your home. The only issue may be older children thinking the cartoon jungle animals and their sounds a bit childish.


The activities in the app address key areas of understanding and manipulation of fractions. There are five sections (name, compare, convert, add, and multiply) and five levels. The parent learning page is helpful for parents who have forgotten their elementary school lessons. This parent section helps adults and children make sense of the vocabulary and strategies for working with fractions.


In the setting section you can keep track of your child’s progress. You can also turn on and off the animals sounds and the background sounds. This may not sound like a big deal but believe me you WILL love this feature. The testers enjoyed spiking the volume. Earplugs will work, whether you wear them or your child does.


There are so many opportunities every day to prepare your child for the difficult concept of fractions. Remember that every time you break a cookie in half and share it you are modeling fractions.


Activity 1: A Look at Fractions For 1st Graders


By the end of first grade your child should:


• Be comfortable dividing circles and rectangles into two and four equal shares.


• Describe the shares using the appropriate terms – halves, fourths, and quarters & “half of…”, “fourth of…”, and “quarter of…”


• Understand 2 halves are equal to one whole & 4 fourths (or 4 quarters) are also equal to one whole.


• Understand that the greater number of shares you divide a whole by, the smaller each of those shares becomes. In other words, one fourth is smaller than one half when talking about the same whole.


Activity 2: Ways to Get Ready to Learn Fractions


The big idea around fractions is that you can break apart one whole object into smaller equal parts. Those parts have names and can vary in size and amount. That is a big concept for our little ones. Thankfully there are lots of things parents can do for kids to prepare them for learning about fractions.


1. Talk – talk – talk. Vocabulary is half the battle with fractions. Describe things around your world with words like “whole,” “half,” “equal,” and “not equal.” While packing your child’s lunch explain that you are cutting the sandwich in “half.” Have your child give “equal” amounts of crayons when sharing with friends. When your child is ready, introduce the words “divide” and “remainder” – graham crackers work well for modeling these two words.


2. Use apps. Fractions are challenging to model with children because we eventually run out of interesting, meaningful things we can cut into parts. From experience – practicing with paper gets boring really fast. Apps like Jungle Fractions are an excellent way for your child to play with fractions in a safe and supportive way. You will be glad to leave the things in your house “whole” too.


3. Playing with your food is a great way to learn fractions. Next time you have a dish that can be evenly divided (pizza is great for this), have your student divide it in half, and then into quarters.


Download the most popular guide to finding and using educational apps for kids!

Handwriting Apps for Young Writers

Handwriting is quite the loaded topic right now; learn how handwriting apps can help you teach this skill to your child.

Handwriting is quite the loaded topic right now. In the news you read about how schools are focusing less on “composition” and moving towards making sure that children can meet the demands of keyboarding. The discussion right now is focused on cursive handwriting instruction, but with ever-increasing academic demands as early as kindergarten, print instruction may also be affected.


Parents and teachers express concerns that without direct handwriting instruction children will miss out on learning a necessary skill. No matter where you stand on the subject, it sounds like handwriting, especially cursive instruction, could be phased out of many schools – if your school hasn’t done so already.


What we do know is that children will be writing in school. The question is whether or not specific handwriting practice is going to be a parents’ option to do at home.


Luckily, parents now have some of the highest quality handwriting resources at their fingertips. Literally – fingertips! I mean the iPhone and iPad. If your school is getting rid of handwriting lessons, you now have the ability to teach your child this skill yourself, with much less complaining, than ever before.



I have seen iWriteWords used at restaurants more than any other! A beautiful and entertaining app that children can use long before they can handle a pencil makes this a great purchase. We love how your child can easily use the playback feature to watch how they made their letters and numbers.


Read KinderTown's review of iWriteWords.


Write My Name

With Write My Name you start by tracing and writing your name. Move on to working on uppercase and lowercase letters where children hear the letter name and are guided through how to form each letter. Finally, practice writing over 100 commonly used words and watch a quick animation that models the words’ meanings. Bonus: Option to create name tags for multiple children!


Read KinderTown's review of Write My Name.



LetterSchool has an impressive three levels of interaction that support your child from tracing over a line to forming the letter all on their own. A variety of animations and the positive motivational feedback encourages your child and will keep them wanting to use this app. Check out the lite version to try out some of the content for free.


Read KinderTown's review of LetterSchool.


Download the most popular guide to finding and using educational apps for kids!

7 Tips on How to Write an App Review on iTunes

7 Tips on How to Write an App Review on iTunes

Have you read many iTunes app reviews lately? If you’re like me, you generally skim over the reviews because you’re interested, but don’t feel like they help you make a better choice. It’s no surprise that we don’t have helpful app reviews; how many of you really have the time to write one? Or even know what people want to know in a review?


Well, I can share what I want from app reviews. Reviews should help us find out if an app is worth the money. If the app really teaches what it says it is teaching. Reviews, ideally, are short, to the point and most importantly – helpful! So, how can you write a “richer” review?


How to Write a Children’s Educational App Review


Share the Age of Your Child and What They’re Learning


Screenshots don’t give all the details and often the iTunes descriptions do not paint a clear picture. You bought the app and played it. The information you have is really important to help others make good choices about if the app fits their child’s needs.




My 4-year-old learns all about colors while using this flashcard app.
My 3-year-old learns about writing letters while playing games on the app.
This app is fantastic for my 3 and 6-year-old because it has lots of different games that help them be better readers.


Share Your Favorite Things About the App


Every app does something well. Choose one part you think it really great and share it.




We love that the app lets multiple children log on and save their work.
I think the music and design is amazing.
This app uses really detailed pictures to teach the alphabet.


Share What You Wish Was Better in the App


We all need feedback to improve. If the app is AMAZING – say that and then give a tip on what you would want to see to make it even better. If it is not amazing then we need to know that too.




I love everything about this app but wish I could lock the links in the app.
This app could be improved by using a clearer voice when asking the questions.
The app is a lot of fun but my child gets lost between the multiple pages and games.


Steps to Take When Leaving Negative Feedback


Email the Developer First


If you email the developer you get A LOT farther than leaving comments in the reviews where they can’t contact you. If you have a serious problem – EMAIL FIRST. Enter a comment later if you don’t hear back or no solution is given.


Don’t Make It Personal


Developers work long and hard on these apps and appreciate feedback. Using the comments to ask for money back, sharing that the app is “boring” or just complaining does not help the app get better. Share only what you think other parents need to know before buying.


Be Specific


I want to know if there are not enough activities to justify the price. I want to know if the content is not appropriate for the age of the children it says it is for. I want to know if you have contacted the developer and haven’t heard back after 48 hours. I really want to know if the app says it’s educational and clearly it’s not when you are playing it.


Most Importantly – Leave a Review!


It helps the developers of these apps know what is loved about their apps and what features you want them to add. It also helps parents make a better choice about the apps they buy for their children.


Download the most popular guide to finding and using educational apps for kids!

Musical Me! | App Review & Activities

Musical Me! provides children with great educational value, while also being enjoyable.

Musical Me!

We had different reactions when reviewing Musical Me! The music person on our team was excited to see a children’s app that so thoughtfully included solfege for kids (I told you she was a music person) while those of us with a tin ear were thrilled to be able to master well chosen favorite childhood songs.


We ALL saw the educational value for young children. One of our child testers astutely pointed out that it helped him with his memory and concentration (six year old’s can be very reflective). The children enjoyed playing the songs that they knew and really loved to sing along with their parents!


Read KinderTown's review of Musical Me!

Five activities work with your child on dance, rhythm, memory, instruments and notes. You will find both free play activities and challenging levels that will test even the parents. Very little direction is needed. A wonderful “learn by discovery” app.


Oh my, do kids change quickly in their early years. Here are two examples of ways to weave this app into your child’s playtime.


Activity 1: Music With Your 6-Year-Old

Your 6-year-old has changed a lot since age 4. They now enjoy more structured activities. They still might have a strong independent streak but often enjoy working with friends and family on projects. They also have the capacity to learn and repeat specific melody lines as are presented in Musical Me!


Many schools with music programs start children on recorders at about 2nd or 3rd grade. Your ears may not enjoy it, but if you haven’t started your child on an instrument yet – the recorder is a great place to start. Now I highly suggest taking a trip to a nearby music store. If you are short on time there is always Amazon where you can get a recorder and instruction book for under $20.


Even if you don’t play an instrument, the recorder is easy to learn. Help your child get started and then let them explore different notes and sounds on the instrument. Suggest they try to play along with the songs in Musical Me! and other music apps you have. Often time the first songs in beginner music books are children’s music!


Activity 2: Music With Your 4-Year-Old

Generally children around age four are rapidly expanding how they communicate and express themselves, and they really want to try out all kinds of new experiences. Children at this age also start to develop an independent streak – they want less help from others, even when they need it. This is a great age to have your child start exploring with musical instruments and sounds.


While playing Musical Me! inspire your child to think about what instruments they can make from stuff around the house. Need inspiration? The app includes a variety of percussion instruments. See if your child has any ideas on how to make their own percussion instruments to use while the app is playing. Let them get creative and problem solve to make their instruments. No going on google to look up specific instructions!


Okay I’ll give you some hints: Make sure you have some rice, beans or pasta on hand for the shakers. Also chopsticks, spoons and twigs work for drum sticks. A favorite is to make a home guitar: shoe box & rubber bands!


Download the most popular guide to finding and using educational apps for kids!

The Giant Turnip | App Review & Activities

The Great Turnip features master storyteller Katrice Horsley telling a story directly to your child - no gimmicks, no sound effects, just the storyteller.

The Great Turnip


Day Two Productions has yet another story from around the world. The Great Turnip features master storyteller Katrice Horsley telling a story directly to your child – no gimmicks, no sound effects, just the storyteller enrapturing your child through the expressive use of words, gestures, facial expressions and direct eye contact. It is a tale about a farmer who plants a turnip that grows too large to pick and how the problem is resolved. These types of ‘progressive’ stories increase memory development and good listening skills.


Read KinderTown's review of The Giant Turnip.

Each activity for this app was developed by teachers and should match what your child is already familiar with from their classroom. One of our favorite parts is being able to record the story in your own words with support from picture clues. Confidence is built while mimicking and re-telling parts, or for experienced storytellers, all of a story in their own creative way.


Successful reading and writing depend on the child being able to speak and listen well first – this app offers the perfect opportunity to practice both!


Activity 1: String Together a Tall Tale


One of my favorite childhood memories is sitting around the dinner table and listening to my Dad tell us stories about his day. He was a high school math teacher and amazing at keeping us hanging on every word.


One day whales would be swimming down the hallway after a leak in the roof flooded the building. Then there was the time when bees where flying around the gym, which he turned into a tale about playing badminton with bumblebees as the birdies. A really long tale emerged when we started questioning him about the day the teachers turned into the knights of the round table. Never a dull moment.


Storytelling can be as simple as talking about your day or retelling a favorite book at bedtime. What is important is that your children hear you tell and retell stories. After listening to you they will naturally start to engage in storytelling themselves. Being a good storyteller builds confidence, language, and transfers into strong writing skills.


Activity 2: Great Books for Storytelling


Start with the classics, the stories you already know by heart. If your parents told them to you then they are excellent for your children to hear too.


Some other familiar tales:


The Little Red Hen
Where the Wild Things Are


Download the most popular guide to finding and using educational apps for kids!

Kids and iPads: What’s Working

We hand iPads to 4-year-olds and they can navigate between multiple apps and the games within the apps and describe what they're doing. Unbelievable!

We hand the iPad to 4-year-olds and they can navigate between multiple apps and the games within the apps and then proceed to tell us all about what they are doing to “win” the games. Unbelievable! These little people don’t even blow their noses by themselves but can handle the sophistication of our iPads. It is no wonder why the number of children’s apps have grown exponentially over the last few years.



After using over 600 children’s educational apps I want to point out some of the characteristics of apps that really connect with our children.


First: Apps are entertaining. Bright colors, cute characters, music, voices in the app that talk to us, cheer us on, tell us to keep trying = entertaining. When I was a kid it was Math Blaster, Reader Rabbit and Oregon Trail. The sophistication has changed but what makes kids return again and again has stayed the same.


Second: The apps and devices are intuitive. The apps that are the easiest to use seem to know what our next thought is going to be. They propel us into the activity we want or answer the question we just formed. The great apps know when a task is too long and change it up to do something different.



Third: The apps kids repeatedly choose keeps them thinking and moving along a path that is engaging. The look in kids eyes show that they are completely enthralled in the activity. It’s the same look you get when lost in a good book, a video game, listening to music, watching your favorite sports team or on a long walk. The great apps are designed in a way that creates a world or a path that the child is so completely focused on that all sense of time is lost.


Fourth: The apps have unlimited patience. Parents – please do not get mad at me here. I am just admitting the fact that there are times we do not have the time or energy to do one more math problem, practice one more spelling word or explain one more time whatever the child is most interested in. Lucky for us, these apps can! The apps that patiently explain how to sound out “cat” for the 200th time are priceless.


The experience children have with apps is not so different than what any fantastic activity or toy provides. What is exciting is that we have app developers who know about how kids learn and are creating media that is showing signs of being as beneficial as Sesame Street has been.


Apps are really showing themselves to be a great teaching tool – yet, we all know there is room for improvement and further development. What I want to see next is how parents balance apps with play. I want to see how developers get children to problem solve, think critically and create something new in their apps. I want to see how teachers tie in apps to help children make amazing connections in the classroom.


Download the most popular guide to finding and using educational apps for kids!